Upper Arlington High School girls swimming and diving coach Dan Peterkoski put the formula for winning eight consecutive Division I state championships into elementary terms after a recent practice.
"It's about putting in the time, the effort and doing things to the best of your ability. That's how you progress," said Peterkoski, who is in his 10th season leading the program. "We have a group of girls who traditionally put a lot of time and energy in (during) the summer. That's why every year they come to the front at the right time of the season. It's just a simple formula. Effort and time creates good times in February."
A year-round schedule that includes club competition and water polo culminated Feb. 25 at the Branin Natatorium in Canton with the Golden Bears scoring 300.5 points to win the state title ahead of runner-up Cincinnati Ursuline (233) as 55 teams scored.
UA returns nine state qualifiers, led by sophomore Gracie Long, who won the 100-yard freestyle in a program-record 50.71 seconds, placed third in the 200 free (1:49.78) and was part of the winning 400 free relay (state-record 3:24.24) and winning 200 free relay (1:34.68).
Other returning state qualifiers are seniors Sarah Mamo (200 individual medley, 13th, 2:09.26 and 100 breaststroke, 21st, 1:07.14) and Emily Annen (100 butterfly, 19th, 58.52), juniors Julie Dierker (500 free, 11th, 5:04.62), Jamie Krupp (100 breast, 20th, 1:07.05), Jenny Smith (500 free, fourth, 4:57.4 and 200 and 400 free relays) and Elizabeth Weldon (500 free, eighth, 5:07.18 and 200 free, 21st, 1:56.54) and sophomores Alexandra Hedden (100 free, 14th, 53.22) and Emma Lammers (100 fly, 15th, 58.41).
Mamo and Annen are the team's only seniors.
"The juniors, because of the small senior class, will have to fulfill some of the roles normally filled by seniors," Peterkoski said. "They're doing a nice job with that."
UA lost seven members of last year's team to graduation, including Claire Van Fossen, who was state runner-up in the 100 fly (55.75) behind Pickerington Central's Maddie Martin (54.27) and finished 10th in the 100 back (57.19).
The Bears opened Dec. 1, defeating 14-time defending Division II state champion Gates Mills Hawken 102-83 in a dual at Hunting Valley University School before scoring 138 points to win the eight-team Solon Relays ahead of runner-up Hudson (114).
UA won the Ned Reeb Invitational on Dec. 8 at Ohio State, scoring 439 points to finish ahead of runner-up Granville (288) as 48 teams scored.
"It was nice to do that early (in the season)," Annen said. "We had a lot of good races. People are training well now, so it's exciting to see what we're all going to do at the end of the season."
The Bears weren't threatened at the league, sectional and district levels last year. They scored 467 points to win the OCC-Central Division meet, finishing well ahead of runner-up Thomas Worthington (245) as well as Dublin Coffman (201), Hilliard Davidson (150), Worthington Kilbourne (96), Hilliard Darby (79) and Central Crossing (52). Westland does not have a swimming program.
Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal as part of OCC realignment last summer and have been replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty.
UA was first (446) in the 12-team sectional meet at home ahead of runner-up Watterson (171) and was first (522) in the district meet at Ohio State ahead of runners-up Thomas Worthington (213) and Watterson (213) as 27 teams scored.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Betsy Trace, Rachel Webber and Meghan Wilson, sophomore Grace Van Fossen and freshmen Emma Griffith, Chloe Magyari and Erin Sheehan.
Boys team boasts experience, too
The boys team is looking to improve on last year's second-place finish in the Division I state meet and capture its first state title since 1987, but third-year coach Mike de Bear knows his squad can control only so much of that progression.
"We can't control what other teams will do. Our goal is to equal performances of last year or exceed," he said. "It really is just (about leaving) a legacy. I want my guys to go down as one of the best teams in school history and (as) the best public school program in the state."
Senior Joey Long is expected to lead the way for the Bears after winning state titles last year in the 200 free (1:38.64) and 500 free (program-record 4:29.82) and helping the 200 and 400 free relays to fourth-place finishes.
UA scored 198 points at state to finish behind Cincinnati St. Xavier (297) and ahead of third-place Toledo St. Francis (195) as 47 teams scored. St. Xavier has won the past four state titles and has 33 state championships overall.
The Bears' state finish was their best since 2005 when they were runner-up to St. Xavier by 10.5 points.
Long teamed with junior Thomas Trace and 2012 graduate Adam Dodson and Andrew Rabe in the 200 free relay (1:25.07) and teamed with Rabe and 2012 graduates Sean Neri and Ryan Cutler in the 400 free relay (3:07.59).
Also finishing in the top eight at state were the 200 medley relay of Neri, senior Ian Reardon, senior Max Jelen and Trace (fifth, 1:34.18) and Neri in the 500 free (seventh, 4:39.54) and 100 back (eighth, 51.75).
Rounding out the Bears' scoring at state were Cutler in the 100 fly (16th, 52.54), Jelen in the 100 fly (12th, 51.68) and 100 back (14th, 52.58), Rabe in the 50 free (13th, 21.82) and 100 free (12th, 46.99) and Trace in the 100 back (ninth, 51.44) and 200 IM (12th, 1:56.01).
Also competing at state were Cutler in the 200 free (19th, 1:45.72) and junior Zach Newcome in the 500 free (20th, 4:46.48).
"We have some big shoes to fill," Long said. "We have to have our juniors make that leap. Everybody has to step up and be a bigger part of the team."
The roster also includes seniors Geoff Dickhaut, Andrew Mollman and Danny Sullivan, juniors Ryan Baas and Nick Hemleben, sophomores Stephen Davies, Austin Gorski, Colin Holstein, Corey Miles, Jack Tingley and Ian Watson and freshmen Eric Colombo, Ethan Fischer, Ian Hamilton, Grant Jones, Nebyat Mamo, Colin Reardon and Henry Wu.
Last year, UA scored 463 points to win the OCC-Central meet, finishing well ahead of runner-up Thomas Worthington (209) as well as Kilbourne (192), Coffman (169), Darby (124), Central Crossing (65) and Davidson (0).
The Bears were first (397.5) in the 12-team sectional meet at home ahead of runner-up St. Charles (300) and were first (435) at district ahead of runner-up St. Charles (336.5) as 26 teams scored.
UA opened Dec. 1 by defeating host University School 97-89 and Hawken 112-71 in a tri-meet before finishing first (124) in the eight-team Solon Relays ahead of runner-up Hudson (104). The Bears won the Ned Reeb Invitational on Dec. 8, scoring 370 points to finish ahead of runner-up St. Charles (270) as 48 teams scored.
"It's about getting racing in, especially for our higher-end kids who need the experience with racing other fast kids," de Bear said.